Boardwalk Sinks Long Range Plan

By: Bronwen Walsh

Orange cards up indicates an affirmative vote at Monday’s town meeting. BRONWEN WALSH PHOTO

BREWSTER – Residents rejected the town’s first 10-year local comprehensive plan (LCP) and Drummer Boy Park upgrades at Monday’s special town meeting, emphasizing how much they don’t want elevated boardwalks anywhere near Wing Island.

The Stony Brook Elementary School gym was full for the session, with overflow seating in the library, for the five-hour, in-person meeting during which voters approved funding for sidewalks on Millstone Road and the opening of a pool at the former Sea Camps property.

By a vote of 249-149, voters postponed LCP approval at least until the spring annual town meeting, insisting that the vision planning committee remove all references to the prospective boardwalk from the land use plan.

“Voting on this is premature…because of references to the Wing Island Boardwalk,” said Laura Elderidge. “A lot of money has already been spent on a project that has not been environmentally vetted. It makes us beholden.” She added that she was disappointed that select board members appeared “dismissive and condescending” to Friends of Wing Island members’ public comment during recent virtual hearings.

“This is painful to me,” said Len Egert. “I don’t want to diminish good work. The Wing Island boardwalk is embedded in the LCP. Send it back and revise to get rid of those references. Then it won’t be tainted by what we didn’t want.” Otherwise, he added, it’s like “putting a very expensive cart before a horse that might not show up.”

John Depew added, “nobody questions the good intent here; however, we’ve heard time and time again that there is absolutely some possibility for this boardwalk to come about if private funds are used. I just don’t understand why we don’t make that correction” and remove references to Wing Island boardwalk from the LCP.

The culmination of five years’ work by town staff and extensive public input, the LCP was designed to serve as a roadmap or guide for addressing 10 of the most pressing challenges facing the community. It includes an action plan to address the town’s housing crisis, climate change, coastal resiliency, the local economy, and community character.

“We must support the LCP,” said vision planning committee member Sharon Tennstedt. “This is a dynamic plan. It will change as circumstances and situations change. It’s more than any one single issue. It should not be hostage to a single issue.”

Yet Carol Anderson maintained the select board’s approach to Drummer Boy Park improvements felt like a veiled attempt to add initial infrastructure to support the Wing Island boardwalk. “I think we should all be leary” rather than “just pass it and read the 50 million pages later,” she said.

A $400,000 appropriation to add sidewalks along Millstone Road won passage. That plan authorized 115 temporary construction easements but stopped short of exercising eminent domain. On behalf of Millstone Road homeowners, Fernando Demaggio thanked the select board for scaling back the original plan and maintaining the road’s curves, but he asked that speed limits be more strictly enforced, given that the road serves some 3,800 vehicles a day. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring. Town Administrator Peter Lombardi said updated project plans are now available at town hall.

Plans to open the former Sea Camps swimming pool at 3057 Main St. to Brewster and Wampanoag residents next summer were also approved, but not without objection. Voters authorized establishing a $200,000 revolving fund for first-year start-up costs and 10-week operations, including lifeguard staffing.

“There are 27 ponds in Brewster and miles of beachfront,” said Stephen Brown. “I see no reason to spend any money to restore the swimming pool. We should be focusing on housing for the workers who support this town. Put that money toward things we really, really need.” Yet the pool funding passed with greater than a majority vote.

Also approved was a community preservation committee (CPC) plan to move an 1850s one-room schoolhouse to Windmill Village, restore the first floor, and add a cranberry exhibit. In addition, voters authorized changing the CPC’s target allocation formula to allow spending flexibility. That means for fiscal years 2024 to 2027, non-binding funding allocations will devote 30 percent of CPC funds to open space, 30 percent to community housing, 10 percent to recreation, 10 percent to historic preservation, and 20 percent as recommended by the CPC. Faythe Ellis, the CPC chair, said she was pleased that Gov. Charlie Baker last week approved $20 million in state budget surplus funds for the CPA Trust Fund, giving the fund a much-needed boost.

Voters approved $3 million in capital projects for various town departments, minus $255,000 for Phase 1 construction of park improvements outlined in the Drummer Boy Park Master Plan, which were indefinitely postponed.

Major line items included appropriations for Sea Camps comprehensive planning ($175,000) and future uses ($50,000); a pond water quality stabilization database ($50,000); Sea Camps pool parking lot and stormwater infrastructure ($250,000); a loader/backhoe for snow and ice removal ($200,000); Stony Brook Mill area improvements to the retaining wall and fishway ($40,000); two new police cruisers ($115,000); window replacement at town hall ($150,000); and elevator replacement at the Brewster Ladies’ Library ($300,000).

Voters also authorized spending water department reserve funds for exterior water tank painting ($110,000); and golf department reserves for equipment maintenance and replacement ($380,000) and cart path improvements ($120,000).

Voters also OK’d Vesper Pond Drive private road improvements (via a $785,000 loan).

Voters defeated Articles 6 and 8, which respectively sought to reduce public comment from 3 to 1.5 minutes at town meeting and to limit reconsideration votes to within one hour of a relevant vote. Article 7, to remove minimum quorum requirements after a town meeting has been called to order, and Article 9 were indefinitely postponed, the latter because the Attorney General’s Office indicated it was unlikely to approve a time limit for submitting citizens’ petitions before town meetings.